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After the Department of Energy's sneaky transport of weapons-grade plutonium to the Nevada National Security Site, U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto says she doesn't trust Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
“There is one person at the top – the Secretary of Energy – who I do not trust,” Cortez Masto told KNPR's State of Nevada.
The senator believes there are good people within the department who are trying to work with Nevada but, “I think they’re being restricted by individuals like Sec. Perry who has his own motive based on what this administration wants and that is not working with the state of Nevada – unfortunately.”
Cortez Masto said Perry has given her misinformation and told her what she wants to hear but done the opposite.
She said the transport of 1,000 pounds of the radioactive material infuriated her and others in Nevada's congressional delegation.
She said she met with DOE officials after news broke of the plutonium but she wants more information. Cortez Masto said she asked the DOE representatives a series of questions during their meeting.
“First of all, why didn’t you tell us? When was it shipped? How long is it going to be in our state? And how is it being stored in our state? And are you anticipating any future shipments of plutonium to the state of Nevada? These were all the conversations, the questions I had for them,” she said.
However, the answers she received were not helpful. The DOE wouldn't tell her when specifically the waste was sent and wouldn't say how long the plutonium would stay in Nevada, and they wouldn't say this would be the last shipment.
Now, Cortez Masto is demanding a classified meeting about the shipments and she wants to see the storage site to make sure it is safe.
“We’re holding them accountable, so we can protect the safety and health of the people in the state of Nevada and the environment there as well,” she said.
Cortez Masto said she and others in the governor's office and the congressional delegation are dismayed at the turn of events because Nevada and the Department of Energy have long had a good working relationship.
“I made it very clear to them that we are here to work with them but if they are going to lie to us, if they are going to breach that trust how can we continue that positive working relationship?” she said.
The senator is also appalled at the extent to which the DOE went to cover up the shipment. She said lawyers for the department were filing motions in response to the state's injunction request after the waste had already shipped.
"It was a sham," she said.
Cortez Masto also commented on the interview Nevada Public Radio did with Jennifer Glover, a former security protection officer at the security site.
Glover alleges she was sexually assaulted and harassed while working at the site. She also says she was retaliated against and eventually let go when she complained about the harassment.
Cortez Masto said her meeting with the National Nuclear Safety Administration about the plutonium shipment was originally prompted by Glover's story.
"Originally, I had asked them to come in and talk to me to explain what happened, what they were doing to change that culture, and I demanded immediate change to the culture of harassment and sexual harassment," she said, "I wanted to know the policies and protocols they had in place. What they were doing to ensure that any victim or anybody who felt harassed had felt comfortable coming forward knowing that there would be no retaliation."
Cortez Masto said the administrator over the NNSA made a commitment to her to address Glover's case and to put the "appropriate changes" in place.
Editors Note: This story was corrected to note that the plutonium was not transported to Yucca Mountain but to a site 35 miles away within the Nevada National Security Site.
U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev
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